Vision and Context

Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East – Climate and Atmosphere Research Centre (EMME – CARE)

A population of about 400 million is affected by dust storms, dryness, heat extremes and unparalleled air pollution in the “EMME” – Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East region, with severe environmental, health and socio-economic effects. Identified as a global Climate Change “hot spot”, EMME is facing adverse impacts ranging from extreme weather events to poor air quality, with increasing intensity in the coming decades.

The Cyprus Institute (CyI) is a science and technology research and postgraduate education organization. It is guided by a renowned international board of trustees, and funded principally by the Cypriot government. In the past decade, CyI has become a national competence centre in atmospheric and climate research. It gained international recognition for its regional climate change studies, and has established experimental facilities that are unique in the region (for example for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). Pioneering research conducted by CyI has already clearly demonstrated that the Eastern Mediterranean Middle East (EMME) region is a climate change “hotspot”  and has assessed the impact of climate change on public health, ecosystem development, water availability and other sectors.

In collaboration with Advanced Partners, experts in the field, the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East – Climate and Atmosphere REsearch (EMME-CARE)[1] project, establishes a Centre of Excellence (CoE) with a regional focus (Figure below). The objective is to establish a knowledge hub for environmental and climate change research and sustainable solutions, addressing the societal challenges of Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East region[2].

 

Research, education and regional networking are the pillars that EMME-CARE will build upon to foster innovation and outreach. International collaboration and solution-oriented research are needed in a region where climate change and related environmental pressures could undermine sustainable development and stability. Knowledge transfer from advanced European partners to the EMME, where investments in environmental policy solutions and innovation have yet been limited, will have returns for Cyprus, the region and the EU.

Well-known attributes of the EMME are its vast hydrocarbon resources (two-thirds of the world’s known oil and natural gas reserves) and the large potential to harvest energy from the sun. Cyprus is strategically located in the EMME at the intersection between Asia, Africa and Europe, providing an invaluable link between Europe and the Middle East. The region faces many challenges, such as rapid population growth (further to its current about 400 million inhabitants), as well as political and socio-economic instabilities. These challenges, experienced by a part of the world that is already hot and arid, are exacerbated by droughts and the extreme weather conditions associated with rapid climate change. The goal of limiting global warming to less than 2°C, agreed at the 2015 Conference of Parties in Paris, will not be sufficient to prevent adverse climate change impacts in the EMME, where the rate of temperature change in summer is more than twice the global mean. The number of exceptionally hot days has already doubled since the 1970s. These extremes of temperature, in combination with increasing air pollution and windblown desert dust, could in the near future lead to intolerable conditions in both urban and rural environments, ultimately compromising human habitability and promoting migration.

 

Figure: The Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East (EMME) Region

EMME countries highlighted in yellow; white circles: 1,000 and 2,000km distance from Cyprus.

EMME-CARE regional cluster: blue dots: partners with existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU); white dots: partners with planned MoU.

EMME-CARE professorship network: yellow triangles: established; green rectangles: to be established.

 

EMME-CARE proposes a comprehensive and integrated programme to address these challenges through an exceptional combination of research, innovation and education with a regional focus. This will involve laboratory studies, instrument development, continuous comprehensive measurements, field experiments and computer modelling of the regional atmospheric environment and climate change impacts. The data and knowledge created will feed into studies that address societal challenges in the region, including public health impacts, waning water resources, and climate sensitive economic sectors such as agriculture and energy, in order to develop a portfolio of strategies for climate change mitigation and adaptation, and to pursue innovative solutions. EMME-CARE will combine skills, knowledge and regional experience and know-how with international expertise (from the Advanced Partners), along with unique local infrastructure to foster sustainable development in the EMME, manage causes and impacts of climate change, and reduce dependency on western know-how, particularly on services that have generally not been devised for our region’s particular needs.

The Advanced Partners in the project are the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry (MPIC), the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and the University of Helsinki (UHEL). These institutions provide world-leading expertise in atmospheric and climate research, at a fundamental level (MPIC), low carbon technologies and innovation (CEA), along with the provision (UHEL) of advanced graduate education and experience in the coordination of major European research infrastructure[3]. CyI will benefit from improved access to these facilities, whilst being able to offer strong national and regional networking capabilities, as well as existing research into solar energy, water management, sustainability and built environment, all of which are contiguous activities at the institute.

The Centre of Excellence will extend and build on existing atmospheric and climate research and graduate education at CyI, supplemented by new departments that will pursue innovation, impact assessment and policy development at regional (EMME) level. The centre aims to engage a total of approximately 100 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) staff (compared to 27 currently) and graduate up to 100 master/doctor students (in the seven-year H2020 project lifetime), promoting gender equality and regional diversity. The capital investment will be up to €57 million. Four potential funding sources have been identified: 1) The H2020 Teaming Programme, with complementary funds provided by the Cyprus government totalling c.a. €24m. 2) Contributions from CyI itself for the duration of the project, totalling €15m (at the rate of an estimated €2.1m/year. 3) Additional resources generated by competitive calls, products and services totalling c.a. €15m over the project lifetime (at around €2m/year), and 4) In-kind contribution for land and building (up to €2.8m).

[1] EMME-CARE video spot.

[2] Makri, A., ‘Cyprus asserts itself as a regional hub for climate change research’, Nature 559 (2018).

[3] Such as the ACTRIS and ICOS EU networks.